Before a rash is visible, the patient may notice several days to a week of burning pain and sensitive skin….. Shingles rash starts as small blisters on a red base, with new blisters continuing to form for three to five days. The blisters follow the path of individual nerves that come out of the spinal cord in a specific “ray-like” distribution (called a dermatomal pattern) and appear in a band-like pattern on an area of skin. . Eventually, the blisters pop, and the area starts to ooze. The affected areas will then crust over and heal. The duration of the outbreak may take three to four weeks from start to finish. On occasion, the pain will be present but the blisters may never appear. This can be a very confusing cause of local pain. (Medicinenet.)
Similar to chickenpox, the time prior to healing or crusting of the blisters is the contagious stage of shingles. Once all of the blisters are crusted over, the virus can no longer be spread and shingles is no longer contagious. (Medicinenet.)
Drugs that fight viruses (antivirals), such as acyclovir (Zovirax), valacyclovir(Valtrex), or famciclovir (Famvir), can reduce the severity and duration of the rash if started early (within 72 hours of the appearance of the rash). In addition to antiviral medications, pain medications may be needed for symptom control. Both nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications and narcotic pain control medications may be used for pain management in shingles. (Medicinenet.)
Cool compresses and anti-itching lotions, such ascalamine lotion, may also provide relief. An aluminum acetate solution (Burow’s orDomeboro solution, available at your pharmacy) can be used to help dry up the blisters and oozing.(Medicinenet.)
The new PHN drug is Qutenza. It’s made by Lohmann Therapie-Systems AD of Andernach, Germany, and distributed by NeurogesX Inc. of San Mateo, Calif.